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Interview: Shystie

As one of Britain’s first female grime emcees, Shystie cut her teeth the good old fashioned way. Pirate radio, shopping demos and existing in a world previously dominated by men have all contributed to her grime veteran’s badge. After a long hiatus to pursue other avenues; acting, walking the runways at New York fashion week, etc… Shystie is back to her first love, music. We sat down just before the launch party of her new EP to discuss Pink Mist, breaking the female rapper mould and how to solve a problem like (ex best friend) Azealia.

Planet Notion: Pink Mist is your new EP which came out yesterday. Great title, but what does actually mean?

Shystie:  Basically, when soldiers go to war and they see the opposition or someone they’re going to kill; they shoot them from a distance, kill them, pink mist. Which means that person is dead. It’s just about hitting targets and being confident. I’ve used it in a positive way.

PN: Can you describe Pink Mist using the 4 pics 1 word format?

S: Oh my God I love that game!

  1. I’d do the army one
  2. A target board

…shit man, this is so deep [laughs]

  1. A picture of me. One of my new press ones where I’m all sexy…
  1. And a porn star


PN: Your new material is quite sexy…

S: Everyone keeps saying that! I’m a lot older now. When I first came out I was still a kid. Everyone is just like, ‘what happened to little Shystie in the tracksuit?’

 PN: Not all of the tracks are sexually charged, but some are. There are hooks like, ‘gimme head, gimme head, gimme head’ for example?

S: [Laughs] I remember writing that in the studio… I just wanted something that was cocky. Guys always have songs talking about how they do this and that sexually. There are women that do stuff like that too, without being too… slaggish? When you hear the song in its entirety, it’s just a fun song. At the end of the day… men like it [oral sex], women like it… we all like it, why not talk about it?

PN: So, is this your new style or are you just trying out some new things?

S: It’s just me saying something new, experimenting with different sounds, different topics and different concepts. I’ve put this out and so far it has had such good feedback. Before, when I was doing more of the rougher stuff, people were like, (mock American accent) ‘yeah man, its cool. She’s so hood… so ghetto, I love it’ but no one was actually buying it. I need to get paid. Can we get paid please? [Laughs]

PN: There tends to be a set formula with female rappers; talk like a man, look like a man, overly explicit, or gimmick. How do you do something new, but break these patterns and avoid the pigeon holes?

S: I think you just have to be yourself. When I first started rapping, I just studied it. What females are out? What are they talking about? I didn’t want to be just like them.  There aren’t many female artists around that embrace their sexy. We had Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown back in the day, but we haven’t heard from them for ages.

PN: That type of message can be quite empowering to women. However, in the UK especially, female rappers talking about sex too much isn’t always so well received…

S: Pink Mist is so female empowering. From ‘Scumbag’ to ‘Gimme Head’, ‘Good Girls Gone Bad’. I’m all about female unity and just being a spokeswoman. Some of the girls that rap are too boyish. No one wants to hear that, man. We have a hundred boys doing that. Let the boys talk about that. Talk about your nice heels and being with your boyfriend…

It’s all about balance at the end of the day. I just wanted to touch on some issues but be a bit cocky with it too. It’s never going to be like that. You’re never going to see my [gestures around genitalia]… in leopard print, sucking a lolly pop.

PN: Not even just a one off poster, £100 each?

S: [Laughs] maybe in years to come. Give these little boys some chest hairs…

PN: Can I just ask about you and Azealia Banks… You’ve worked together – two singles, two videos. You were friends, you used to speak all the time and then she just turned on you via Twitter, which she seems to do a lot. As someone who knows her personally, is she actually crazy?

S:  She has to be! We shot the ‘Control It’ video in October, they saw it in January. They signed it off. They said it was fine, ‘perfect, go ahead’. We went to release it on a set date and didn’t hear back from them for like, a month. We were telling them our EP is coming out we need to do the promo. So we were like, ‘we are putting it out on this date, you’ve already signed it off so it shouldn’t matter’ they were saying Azealia wants it to come out after her single – which she hadn’t even shot the video for yet. I’m an independent artist. I don’t have time to wait around like that. We spent a lot of money out of our own pockets on this video and we had been sitting on it from October. It was now February/March. So we put it out. Then she started Tweeting all kinds of reckless f*ckrey like, ‘oh, the video is bogus. I’m going to make the label take it down’. She was in the video!  She signed it off! If it was ‘bogus’ you wouldn’t have signed it off? And if she felt that way, she should have just told me. We used to speak on the phone all the time. She knows it isn’t bogus. When I spoke to her afterwards she was like, ‘oh I was upset. I didn’t really mean it’. You can’t do things like that just because you’re upset. Anybody that tries to tear down what my and team and I are building… I will violate. I just went straight into the studio and did ‘Doppelgänger’. I’m not going to sit on Twitter and argue on these childish games. We are both artists, this is the culture; get in the studio, make songs, or shut up.

PN: Has she apologised?

S: Yes, by text. As far as I’m concerned that isn’t good enough. For me to move forward with her, she has to let people know what really happened, or publicly apologise. It is business, these things happen. I know how it is. People are gassed up because they are getting a bit of hype and they forget themselves, they forget where they come from and who they really are. That’s business, I know that.

PN: Legally, if the song is yours can she have it removed from YouTube?

S: No! I have no idea what she was talking about. That’s why it went straight back up.

PN: Could it be that a lot of the focus was on you with that particular project and she got a little bit upset by that?

S: Do you know what? A lot of people have said that. We did another video together and she didn’t want to put that out either. They scrapped it and she didn’t even tell us that they scrapped it. I just saw her put it on Twitter. The first day it came out… within hours it was on like, 20k views. It was being promoted everywhere, everyone loved it. Then they pulled it down. I was so vex. I was just like, ‘what a fucking bitch…’

PN: Last word on the matter?

S: Forget her. Pink Mist is the shit and its out on the April 28th.

PN: This is a game – not a test – to see how well you know your female rappers. I’m going to say some lyrics, I’d like you to fill in the punch line and name the artist.

 “Valley girls giving blowjobs for Louboutins/what you call that? Head over _____”

S: Heels! Iggy Azalea

“Hello, did you get the memo? / sucking all these artists from the scene_____”

S:  Armadillo. That’s Lady Leshurr.

“Instinct leads me to another flow/every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a _____”

S: Hoe! … Jean Grae? …MC Lyte? …Queen Latifah!

“No licky-licky, f*ck the _____”

S: That has to be Lil’ Kim… ‘No licky-licky, f*ck the…’ pus*y?

[Everyone laughs]

PN: I’m sorry, that is incorrect. You can get half a point for Lil’ Kim.

“No licky-licky, f*ck the dicky-dicky” Lil’ Kim ft. Diddy – ‘No Time

“Breakfast in bed with some head _____”

S: Never f*ck if you niggas ain’t cleared. That’s me!

Pink Mist is out now.

-Trina John-Charles


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